First Impressions

Image Consultant Sylvie Di Giusto on Developing the Image of a Leader

First impressions are important in the business world, whether you are trying to get a job, pitching for funding for your startup, or portraying yourself as the leader of a company. Those first impressions are hard to change, so it is crucial that you get it right the first time.

Developing the image of a leader is both an art and a science, which is why many executives and entrepreneurs read self-help books or turn to an image consultant for advice. If you’d like some tips on how to develop your own image and improve those first impressions, then you will love my latest interview with Sylvie Di Giusto.

Sylvie Di Giusto is the owner of Executive Imaging Consulting, a New York City business that specializes in image consulting and “people packaging.” Sylvie also wrote the book The Image of Leadership which explores how to develop a professional image so people perceive you to be an effective leader.

In our interview, we discussed a range of topics including the four components of image, what successful leaders have in common, tips for purchasing your wardrobe, advice for entrepreneurs, and other topics. While I will be sharing some of my favorite parts, I urge you to listen to the interview in full by clicking play below.

The Four Components of Image

Your image is how people see you, experience you, and judge you. Those initial judgements are called ‘first impressions,’ and although first impressions are snap judgements, they have serious impacts. Whether you’ll be hired, whether people will vote for you, and how much you will make in sales can all be determined by first impressions.

We often think of one’s appearance and the way they dress as being the main components that go into a first impression. However, as Sylvie stresses in the interview, there are actually four components of image, which she calls the A, B, C, and Ds of an Imprint:

  • Appearance – The way you look, your body image, your clothes, your grooming and everything else that people can see about your visual appearance.
  • Behavior – Your body language, how you behave, and your business etiquette skills.
  • Communication – What you say when you speak as well as aspects of your voice such as sound and volume.
  • Digital – The impressions that are made based on your digital footprint.

While A, B, and C are common in the image consulting business, Sylvie has added to the understanding of image by creating the D for digital impressions. These days you can find out a lot about a person simply by doing a little online research. These digital footprints are part of your image because when people discover this information, they immediately begin forming first impressions.

The Image of a Leader is More Than Just Appearance

The components above demonstrate that your image is more than just the way you dress. Because of this, you can’t just solve your image problems by putting on a fancy suit or a nice dress. As Sylvie mentions, “Your appearance is a huge part because it’s like a filter you put in front of you, but successful leaders don’t wear a suit. Successful people have five things in common.” They are:

  • They appear, behave and communicate confidently, regardless of the specific aspects of their appearance like age, weight and size.
  • They appear, behave and communicate authentically. You can look at them and immediately know what you are getting.
  • They appear, behave and communicate professionally. You will recognize them as a professional when you see them, even though ‘professional’ looks very different in different fields (finance versus creative industries, for example).
  • They appear, behave and communicate in a controlled manner. They are controlling their image from their head down to their toes.
  • They appear, behave and communicate in a respectful manner. They define their own value and respect themselves, and they also show respect for those around them.

The Link Between Image and Wardrobe

Sylvie makes it abundantly clear that developing the image of a leader is more than just figuring out what clothes to wear. However, the way you dress is a big component of a first impression – so how much does your wardrobe matter?

In a recent article, we talked about the new interpretation of how to dress for success and the fact that the traditional business suit is being pushed aside as we embrace multiple forms of professional attire that reflect the person and the business they represent. So do you have to wear expensive clothes? Can you go around wearing flip flops like Mark Zuckerberg? With an expanding definition of what is acceptable, how exactly should ‘regular’ business owners and entrepreneurs dress?

I won’t give away the answer, but if you click to listen to the interview, you can get Sylvie’s three tips for assembling your business wardrobe. She’ll also shed some light on the truth behind casual wardrobes like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

Sylvie’s Advice for Business Owners – Go Into a Niche

When asked to give advice to other business owners and entrepreneurs, Sylvie pulled some valuable words of wisdom from her own story. She reflected back on when she started as an image consultant and she tried to “offer everything to everybody” – personal styling, personal shopping, whatever the customer wanted or needed.

Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work out. A major turning point in her career was when she decided to be true to herself. Prior to becoming an image consultant, she had worked for 20 years in the corporate world. Deciding to focus on executives and leaders in corporations has become her path to success.

Sylvie suggests the same for other business owners. Just like she has found a niche helping entrepreneurs to develop the image of a leader and make better first impressions, you too can use specialization to boost your business. Instead of trying to do everything, Sylvie advises to “Go into a niche, become an expert and your clients will find you.”